Loughborough University
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Uncovering the desired qualities and behaviours of general practitioners (GPs) during medical (service recovery) encounters

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journal contribution
posted on 2013-03-11, 11:50 authored by Thorsten GruberThorsten Gruber, Fabricio Frugone
Purpose – The purpose of the study is to uncover the desired qualities and behaviours that patients believe GPs should have in medical (service recovery) encounters. In particular, we try to reveal the qualities and behaviours of GPs that patients value, to understand the underlying benefits that they look for during personal (service recovery) encounters, and to graphically illustrate the findings in a so-called hierarchical value map. This will prove to be important in order to understand patients’ needs and desires correctly. Design/Methodology/Approach – An exploratory research study using the qualitative laddering interviewing technique was regarded as appropriate as it allows researchers to gain a deeper insight into an underdeveloped research subject. In total, in-depth laddering interviews with 38 respondents were conducted. Findings – In case of a service recovery encounter, patients believe that GPs need to show competence, friendliness and empathy in order to restore trust in them. GPs should also listen actively and do the appropriate checks in order to find the root cause of the problem. “Health” was the main value sought by patients. This value is considered by patients to be the gateway to moving on with their everyday lives and search the attainment of other values such as wellbeing, belongingness, accomplishment and self-realization. Moreover, respondents would like to gain knowledge about their disease in order to prevent them in the future and to have some sense of control over the decision of the treatment. Patients also want a more active role in the medical (service recovery) encounter, which calls for a more shared approach by GPs in the interaction with their patients. Research limitations/implications – Due to the exploratory nature of the study in general and the scope and size of its sample in particular, the findings are tentative in nature. As the study involved patients from one large metropolitan area in the UK, the results cannot be generalized beyond this group. Practical implications – If GPs know what dissatisfied patients expect, they can adapt their behaviours to their patients’ underlying expectations, which should have a positive impact on the evaluation of the doctor-patient relationship. For this purpose, the paper gives recommendations that can help GPs recover patients’ trust while at the same time improving their performance in medical (service recovery) encounters. Originality/value – This paper gives a valuable first insight into the desired qualities and behaviours of GPs during medical (service recovery) encounters. The study results especially indicate that complaining patients are people first and patients second, where the primary importance is the satisfaction of basic social needs. The fact that this study has revealed the highest number of values in published laddering studies so far shows how crucial these medical (service recovery) encounters in general and GP qualities and behaviours in particular are for patients. Another strong contribution of this paper is the finding that all the identified concepts from the laddering interviews that are shown in the hierarchical value maps must not been seen in strict isolation, as in previous research, but have to be understood as a network of interrelated concepts.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


GRUBER, T. and FRUGONE, F., 2011. Uncovering the desired qualities and behaviours of general practitioners (GPs) during medical (service recovery) encounters. Journal of Service Management, 22 (4) pp.491-521.


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